Should You “Stalk” Prospective Church Staff On Social Media?

Today’s post is a guest post by Tim Stevens, a team leader with the Vanderbloemen Search Group, and the former executive pastor at Granger Community Church, in Indiana. During his twenty years there, he helped grow the church to more than 5,000 gathering weekly in three locations and saw a worldwide impact. 

Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. Instagram. Pinterest. Blogs.

These social networking tools (and scores of others) have changed everything about hiring staff, finding volunteers, and leading people. Why? Because everything you’ve posted, tweeted, commented, e-mailed, sent, it’s all out there. Seth Godin said it this way: “Google never forgets.”1

A report from the University of Evansville seems to back this. They found that more and more employers are turning to the Internet to screen applicants. The study determined that employers were able to determine with a “surprising level of accuracy” person- ality traits and indicators that could predict future job performance.2

It worked for us. At Granger, before we hired people, we unapologetically researched them on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. We discontinued our talks with potential staff members because of their online personas. We ignored applications because of what we’d found on the individuals’ Facebook pages. We also fired people based on what we found online.

I would recommend doing some simple searches before you hire staff or select high-level volunteers. Here are some things to observe:

  • Look through all their picture albums. You will learn much about people by the pictures they take and believe are worthy of posting.
  • Read their posts to see how they think.
  • Click on articles they link to find out what they find interesting.
  • See what they say about their spouses or kids.
  • See if you can find how they react to people with whom they have a disagreement. Are they kind or critical? Do they treat people online the way you would want them to treat your leaders in person?
  • See what they think is funny. Is it always crass and bordering on inappropriate? If so, that probably is a reflection of the heart.
  • Find out about their interests. What movies do they like? What books do they read? Where do they like to vacation? What do they do when they have free time?

You might say, “That borders on stalking!” And you’d be exactly right. Stalking. Creeping. Whatever you want to call it . . . do it! Your work is way too important to chance getting someone on the team who has character flaws you don’t know about. Anything that is put online is for public consumption. And it would be ridiculous not to do the fullest possible research. Be sure to focus on posts and content that come directly from your potential employee or volunteer. Posts made by other people risk being taken out of context or could contain false information.

If you were buying a used car, and they offered to give you the full historical report of every mechanical issue or accident the car had experienced, you would do it. You would want to know what you would be getting when you buy that car. If it is true when buying a car, it should be true when hiring team members and placing the entire credibility of the business or church behind their leadership.

Oh, and it probably goes without saying, but also make sure you are smart online. You might be ticked at the business where you last worked, but you’d do well not to air that online. Like Godin said, “Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.”3

Learn more about his new book, Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace.